Three civil rights groups have now issued travel advisories for Florida in protest of controversial policies sanctioned by the state’s Governor Ron DeSantis.
This week, The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (N.A.A.C.P.) issued a formal travel advisory for The Sunshine State.
According to a press release, the warning came in direct response to Governor DeSantis' “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”
"Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of colour,” the notice reads.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson commented on the action.
"Let me be clear - failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all," said Johnson.
"Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon. He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We're not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation."
The advisory was initially proposed to the Board of Directors by NAACP's Florida State Conference.
The organization said the “collective consideration” of the advisory is a result from “unrelenting attacks on fundamental freedoms from the Governor and his legislative body.”
"Once again, hate-inspired state leaders have chosen to put politics over people. Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida have engaged in a blatant war against principles of diversity and inclusion and rejected our shared identities to appeal to a dangerous, extremist minority," said Chair of the NAACP Board of Directors Leon Russell. "We will not allow our rights and history to be held hostage for political grandstanding. The NAACP proudly fights against the malicious attacks in Florida, against Black Americans. I encourage my fellow Floridians to join in this fight to protect ourselves and our democracy."
This latest action comes on the heels of the League of United Latin American Citizens (L.U.L.A.C.) issuing a similar warning for Florida last week and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, doing so in April.
The L.U.L.A.C., for one, is protesting Florida’s new immigration law, which calls for employers with more than 25 workers to check their immigration status against a national database.
LULAC President Domingo Garcia is warning Latinos travelling in Florida with family members to be cautious if they encounter law enforcement.
"We do not doubt that if Abuelita or Tia is with us and we are profiled, DeSantis' enforcement regulations will treat us like criminals, transporting a dangerous person who only wanted to visit family or enjoy Disneyworld," said Garcia in a statement.
Equality Florida, meanwhile, issued an updated travel advisory this week, blasting what it says is “Florida’s most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history” where six anti-LGBTQ bills were passed and nearly all have been signed by Governor DeSantis.
The updated advisory, which can be viewed here, details the risks associated with relocation or travel to the state.
Visit Florida responds
In a statement to PAX on Wednesday (May 24), Dana Young, president and CEO of Visit Florida, the state’s destination marketing organization, called it “disappointing” that partisan organizations are “attempting to weaponize travel in pursuit of political ends.”
“Travel advisories issued with blatant factual misrepresentations are a disservice to the travelling public and are disrespectful to the incredibly diverse visitors and residents that are proud to call Florida home,” Young said.
The CEO noted that Visit Florida prides itself on “welcoming every visitor with the same warmth and friendliness, no matter where they are from, what they believe, whom they love or what their abilities are.”
“The saddest part of this political stunt is that the people who would be most impacted are the hardworking hospitality professionals in Florida who depend on tourism to support themselves and their families,” Young said. “History proves that travel opens minds to diverse ideas and builds new connections.”
“We encourage leaders to elevate the facts and put an end to these baseless and harmful attacks on the Florida tourism industry.”
And the facts, she said, “speak for themselves.”
“Florida’s incredible hospitality is evidenced by our record-breaking visitation numbers quarter-after-quarter and year-after-year,” Young said.
She said that Florida has enacted “some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country” that “protect all people,” regardless of their background.
She said Florida is “one of the safest states in the country,” with crime at a 50-year low, noting that it “does not have a single city” on the list of the top 25 most dangerous cities in the U.S. (Young did not provide a source).
She added that Florida is committed to “strong law enforcement to protect visitors and residents alike.”
She also noted that in 2022, Florida had the largest market share of any state in the country among African American vacationers with 21.4 per cent.
(California came in a somewhat distant second with a 16.2 per cent market share).